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  • Héctor A. Venegas

Japanese hospitality “omotenashi”

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Last week I had the pleasure and the honor to be invited to give a seminar and speak at an event in front of meeting and event industry professionals in Tokyo.

One of the topics was the focus on the reasons of doing business in Japan.

I have been lucky to have planned and conducted meetings and events in a lot of places around the globe.

Every country has its benefits and its challenges.

In Japan, the most outstanding virtue is the hospitality of the Japanese people towards the people they host.

The Japanese call this “omotenashi”.

Omotenashi is based on the pure respect and gratefulness for the visitor.

In a lot of Asian countries foreigners are treated and greeted with respect.

Not everywhere this is an expression of respect for the visitor and his needs, but often more focused on the possible future business resulting from hosting him.

Omotenashi means more.

It is a mentality and a belief in making the visitor feel welcome and giving him the desired attention, no matter about a possible return.

The way a guest is welcomed at a hotel, or a restaurant in Japan is beyond comparison.

It is a respectful and at the same time not unnaturally submissive way of showing that the host is happy and honored to be able to be of service for the guest and to make his stay the most agreeable possible.

It goes beyond the obvious service minded mentality, we know and teach to hospitality staff in the rest of the world. It also takes into consideration the little things, that might not be obvious in the first place.

Only in Tokyo I have seen signs in elevators stating, that you should give priority to disabled or challenged people. If there is a person in a wheelchair or with a baby stroller, this person has priority using the lift, as it can be assumed that the others would be able to take the stairs or wait for their turn. This seems to be a normal thing to do, but do we act like that in Europe?? I have my doubts.

Beside the fact that the Japanese toilets are an experience by themselves, which everyone should try at least once a lifetime, in Japan even the visit of a toilet in a public space can be eye opening. Every parent of a young baby or small child has had the problem before: What do you do with your son or daughter, when using a public restroom? In Tokyo you will find the perfect and genius answer. Smart people have developed a child seat, they attach to the wall. You simply place your baby into it, and you can do what you have to, without having to worry that the baby might crawl around touching everything. Simply amazing!!

Ever needed to change in a public restroom? Well even this can be done with a changing board, installed in some public restrooms.

It's the little things that matter and make the guest experience an amazing one.

The greater Tokyo area has a population of about 13 million people and about 4 million motor vehicles drive through the city every day. Although that is a huge number, the noise that those cars make, is surprisingly low. Of course, accidents would happen, but people usually drive carefully. No racing starts at the traffic lights, no honking and very little hitting the breaks with squealing tires.

The respect towards others and their wellbeing is omnipresent.

This is the feeling a guest has, when being welcomed in Japan. The host will have thought of so many things that would make the stay of the visitor a great and agreeable one. And this would include some of the things, we would have never thought of ourselves.

This is what omotenashi is about.

We should take this as an example, when conducting meetings and events here in Europe or hosting guests in hotels or restaurants.

Our meeting design would benefit from a little sense of omotenashi.

Try it! You will see how it works!

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